Abbey and I are now well into her second treatment for ulcers and she’s doing really well. Her symptoms all disappeared within a week of starting the omeprazole and sucralfate, she’s back in work and we’re starting to go out and about.
However, she’s still on the vet’s recommended diet of (hay and grass) alfa-a and linseed oil. This is very calorific in comparison with her diet prior to the ulcers (hay, grass, handful of Thunderbrooks Herbal Chaff and a general mineral supplement). Predictably, she’s gaining weight and fast.
Ulcers are commonly seen (or were first observed?) in high-level competition horses and one of the (many) symptoms is weight loss. Understandably much of the feed industry is creating feeds that promote weight gain while supporting the stomach and gut. This leaves me with a problem – what can I feed Abbey that will help prevent her ulcers returning without further weight gain?
(NB: I will be addressing what I believe to be the cause of Abbey’s ulcers – stress from travelling and competition – as well)
It’s probably worth, at this point, reinstating some of the points about feeding an ulcer-prone horse from my previous blog post, ‘Horse Ulcers, A Short Guide’.
The bulk of the diet should come from good forage and given ad lib. The idea that this constant flow of food provides something (other than the stomach and gut linings) for the acid to work on. (Taking into account, of course, that omeprozole should be given on an empty stomach – I didn’t say it was easy!)
Any hard feed should be low in sugar and starch (so as reduce acid production), not too scratchy (that may irritate the stomach lining), and ideally naturally high in compounds that neutralise acid e.g. calcium (alfalfa is a good source as it is contains a natural balance with magnesium but it doesn’t suit all horses. Fortunately Abbey seems ok with it.)
Why I am giving Abbey a hard feed at all? Well….at the moment she’s on medication to treat the ulcers, both are designed to be put in feed. It’s also recommended that a horse has a small chaff feed before stressors or riding. This protects the stomach from acid splashing onto the linings. I also would like to give Abbey a top up of essential minerals that maybe missing from her forage, and some protective supplements that may prevent ulcers reoccurring.
(For a summary of supplements and how they work, click here.)
As I’m advised to give a small chaff feed before riding, it seems a good place to start….
After visiting many feed manufacturers websites and getting myself thoroughly in a pickle, I did the only logical thing a crazy-horse-owner-with-a-problem can do; make a spreadsheet!
I have concentrated on chaffs designed for good doers, light work etc. (NB. where there is a range of values, I’ve taken the median in order to be able to filter the spreadsheet by number and where there is a ‘less than’ symbol I’ve taken the highest value.)
A few observations:
Top three lowest by digestible energy are all Dengie Hi-Fi products. I am guessing that the inclusion of straw reduces the overall energy value as these all contain molasses and have relatively high sugar percentages.
With the molasses containing chaffs removed, Baileys Light Chaff comes out with the lowest digestible energy. This contains straw too, as do the next four chaffs in order of digestible energy (Spillers Daily Fibre, Dengie Hi-Fi Molasses Free, Spillers Happy Hoof Molasses Free and Spillers Happy Hoof).
Next up are the two grass-based chaffs (Thunderbrooks Healthy Herbal Chaff and Simple Systems Timothy Chop). While I like the idea of these chaffs, as they don’t have alfalfa in them, the don’t have the same balance of magnesium and calcium.
So that leaves me with Simple Systems Organic Lucie Stalks, which I really like the sound of. It is purely alfalfa, no added anything and it’s produced locally 🙂 It may even have lower digestible energy as the website gives ‘less than X’ figures. My only concern is that the stalks will be scratchy and, if Abbey doesn’t chew them properly, will irritate her gut.
I think it is worth a try.
Download my spreadsheet here: Chaffs.
If you make any other observations, please let me know by commenting in the box below.
Please bear in mind that I am not a vet nor a nutritionist. If you do choose to download my spreadsheet please check for yourself the quantities and the ingredients and do your own research!
Because feed is such a complicated issue, I’ve written a number of blog posts sharing my research and my decision making process:
- A short guide to ulcers in horses
- Revision – what the words on the back of feed bags mean
- Choosing a balancer
- Gastric supplements – common ingredients and what they do
- Choosing a supplement